When the second intifada hit Israel in the early 2000s, the need for outside aid suddenly skyrocketed, and the money sent to Israel by American Jewish organizations simply couldn’t be raised anew each time a new tragedy struck.
That’s why the Jewish Agency for Israel, with support from the Jewish Federations of North America through its Israel Emergency Campaigns, created the Fund for Victims of Terror.
Last week, after a period of relative inactivity, the FVOT once again became crucial when five family members were murdered in their home in the West Bank Itamar settlement on March 12.
“The [Israeli] government does assist victims, but then sometimes it takes them awhile to deal with certain issues,” said Brian Eglash, senior vice president of financial resource development for the Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh. “Certain things the government just may not be able to address.”
In the case of the Fogels, an initial emergency grant of $1,000 was donated to the family. A long-term plan is going into effect as well — the FOVT will also give the family a larger grant for additional needs, and the surviving children will likely receive funding for their education, which will be held in a trust until they turn 18.
Eglash said Pittsburgh’s Jewish community has been one of the country’s largest regional supporters of the FVOT.
“During the  war in Lebanon, we were probably the highest per capita in the country, raising over $5.5 million in less than a matter of months,” he said. “The culture of giving in this community is just unbelievable, it really is. When push comes to shove, people step up.”
While it seems certain that even without the FVOT, the international Jewish community would have supported the Fogel family, having such a fund for terrorism victims makes that support immediate, said Dani Wassner, managing director of communications and media of JFNA’s Global Operations: Israel and Overseas.
“Immediately after the tragedy occurred, many federations and people across North America asked what they could do to help. Luckily, there was already in place a mechanism to help,” said Wassner. “They were immediately directed to that fund. It’s there to be used at a moment’s notice. We don’t want to start raising money every time a tragedy happens.”
Additional financial support would be issued once “the family gets into some state of normalcy,” Wassner added.
To date, the FVOT has been used to aid about 3,200 families of about 18,000 individuals, with total support of about $20.5 million. Specific guidelines ensure that the FVOT dollars are used to cover gaps left by regular government response.
Three children of the Fogel family survived the March 12 attack that claimed the lives of parents Udi and Ruth, and children Yoav, Elad and Hadas. Much of the outrage over the murders was due to the extreme savagery of the attacks; photographs of the family flooded Israeli media outlets.
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas condemned the murders, but, as a spokesman for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told the New York Times, “The weak and noncommittal condemnation of the Palestinian leadership is insufficient and unacceptable.”
And the P.A. condemnation was followed days later by the naming of a square in the West Bank town of Al-Bireh for Dalal Mughrabi, a Palestinian terrorist who directed a 1978 bus hijacking on Israel’s coastal road in which 37 Israelis were murdered, including 13 children.
As the wounds from the vicious attack heal, the surviving Fogels will be well supported.
“All Jews are responsible for one another,” said Eglash. “This is just one example of how we’re able to be there for each other through such a horrendous tragedy. Hopefully this will never, ever happen again.”
(Justin Jacobs can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.)